On Break-Ins and Broken Hearts: An Advent Reflection

Cary Grant in “To Catch a Thief”

We love movies about clever heists, where high-tech and highly organized thieves outwit security systems and break into “uncrackable” safes. We thrill to scenes of Cary Grant scaling rooftops in Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief, warming to the lovable cat burglar’s idiosyncratic character.

I sometimes have fantasies about breaking into museums or private gardens at night, wandering these sleeping spaces and having the place to myself for a few quiet hours. I know I’m not alone. The thrill, the tension, the possibility of discovery…our imaginations are captured by break-in stories as we picture ourselves projected from our mundane lives into an adventure that promises forbidden treasure.

But I think it’s safe to say that most of us have never dreamt of breaking into a hospital for the terminally ill, or a concentration camp, or an institution for the criminally insane. These places hold no appeal, no promise, only heartache and terror. Yet Christmas is a story of exactly this kind of break-in: the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6) breaks into this broken, despairing, dysfunctional world. Why on earth?!

Christmas is a story of exactly this kind of break-in: the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace breaks into this broken, despairing, dysfunctional world.

And this Prince doesn’t arrive in a Hollywood way—which would make so much more sense to us! He doesn’t break in like a well-planned police raid, kicking down the brothel door to rescue victims and bring their abusers to justice. Or like Navy Seals on a counter-terrorism mission, gunning down the bad guys as they take back the embassy…  No, the God of the universe arrives as a scrawny baby, completely dependent on his mother’s milk—even vulnerable to a government ruler who is determined to exterminate him.

Why would someone with all the power in the universe break in to this world—a world so full of violence and ignorance and poverty? There is only one answer, only one reason, and it looks so fragile, even pathetic, on the page.

Love. Love is the reason Jesus came. And sometimes I think we’d prefer almost any other answer, because:

  • Jesus’ love is so extravagant—we can never hope to pay him back.
  • Jesus’ love is so unpredictable—and we favor things we can forecast, track, and manage.
  • Jesus’ love is so messy, involving the blood and struggle of both birth and crucifixion—when we so prefer things to be beautiful and pain-free.

But, the fact is, none of my efforts to earn, manage or dress up Jesus’ love has ever succeeded.

So this Advent, I am determined to take the risk of submitting to this extravagant, unpredictable, messy love. I am asking Jesus to break into this frightened, angry, broken heart of mine—and trusting that when he appears, my soul will, as the Christmas hymn puts it, “feel its worth.”  This is the break-in adventure of a lifetime, and it’s one that I suspect will play out, in one way or another, until that day when I, by God’s grace, break into that “real country,” as C.S. Lewis wrote about in The Last Battle, and am truly home at last. When I will say, as the Unicorn did, “This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now…Come further up, come further in!”

 Kristyn Komarnicki is director of dialogue and convening for Christians for Social Action.

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